This is my latest column for Jewish News:
It is actually a myth that more people now vote in reality television show finals than in general elections. The statistics don’t back the theory, not least because many reality television viewers vote multiple times. But there is a growing feeling that people like Simon Cowell now hold every bit as much influence on the great British public as does Gordon Brown. Mindful of the enduring success of reality television I suspect it cannot be long before the genre is given an injection of politics.
So how might political reality shows actually look? As recent months have shown us the approach towards Israel on our main channels is obsessive and unfriendly. From the BBC’s slanted Panorama show about Jerusalem A Walk In The Park, to Channel 4′s horrific conspiracy-theory Dispatches documentary fronted so pathetically by Peter Oborne, there has been precious little balance and sanity on the airwaves of late. The offices of the broadcasting world seem to have their fair share of morally-inverted freaks, so I’ve no doubt the reality television genre could quickly become full of just as much lunacy…
First out of the traps would come Britain’s Got Bigots. This would be an ‘exciting new spin on’ (read: unimaginative rip-off of) the Britain’s Got Talent concept: a talent show open to anyone who is disappointed with their own life and wants to relentlessly blame Zionism for all the world’s ills. The judging panel would consist of Israel-boycotting filmmaker Ken Loach, Seven Jewish Children playwright Caryl Churchill and (well, how best to describe him?) Alexei Sayle. Annie Lennox would occasionally guest to sing about how Operation Cast Lead ruined her Christmas.
There would be no public vote because, as we’re constantly told during Iraq debates, it is morally wrong to impose democracy on civilisations unable to deal with it. The winner would be crowned ‘Britain’s Biggest Bigot’ and would gleefully receive a statuette modelled on Baroness Jenny Tonge. In stark contrast to its namesake, in this show diversity would always finish last. On a similar note, how about a new British take on an existing Stateside hit in the shape of Anti-American Idol? Sponsored by The Guardian it could be co-hosted by Michael Moore and George Galloway (I’m already thinking the set would need to be roomy) and would feature lots of bad teeth, French wine and manic chatter among contestants about how ‘those Jews’ have a stranglehold on Congress. The prize for the winner would be an all-expenses paid week’s holiday in Tehran. (Second prize a two-week holiday in Tehran. Boom boom!)
Meanwhile, after its Sound Of Music talent search proved such a hit, the BBC might find itself considering a Yvonne Ridley presented show called What Do You Do With A Problem Like Sharia? Here, contestants would be invited to present their own personal plan to deal with growing tensions over extremist Islam. The winner – whose name would be announced live on air by a heavily perspiring Jeremy Bowen – would of course be the one who proposed: blame everything on Israel. There must be lots of similar ideas on the back-burner including David Milliband’s jungle-contest entitled He’s A Mossad Agent Get Him Out Of Here and Bill Clinton’s Camp David-based game show Deal Or No Deal. Perhaps a Halal version of Raymond Blanc’s The Restaurant might prove too tempting for the long-lunching commissioners of BBC towers, too. Either that or Britain’s Next Top Mullah.
It cannot be long until our evening television schedules are full of just these sorts of shows in which votes are cast and the good guys come last. Stick a few adverts in The Guardian and The Independent and there would be a stampede of people keen to take part I am sure. Disappointed Israel-bashers of the world apply: you have nothing to lose but your obscurity!
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